I've never written a review on this site, mostly because I find that most reviews are fair and well-meaning that, for the most part, aim to get at the root of the film itself. However, I was compelled to write something about "Derrida," because, for whatever reason, reviewers of the film have largely ignored the filmmakers' intent and, even worse, in some cases, used their review as a platform to air pent-up grievances about this celebrated thinker.
Simply put, "Derrida" is a wonder: a disarming, captivating film that alchemizes a seemingly un-filmable subject--the daily life, travels, and thoughts of a brilliant philosopher--into a convincing, wholly cinematic portrait.
As the above reviewers suggest, this is no bio-pic. There is no omniscient, James Earl Jones voiceover here. The film doesn't attempt to teach deconstruction, nor does it offer any Ken Burns-like, definitive world view. Instead, co-directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman follow the trail blazed by Frederick Wiseman and the Maysles Brothers--cinema verite pioneers who recognized that voiceover, forced narrative arcs, and easy psychological explanations of character often distort and dilute the truth of a person or event. As the Maysles brothers did in "Salesman" and "Grey Gardens," among other films, Dick and Kofman spent years with their subject, slowly gaining the trust of this notoriously camera-shy man, following him without a narrow agenda, and open to whatever occurred in front of them. In the process, Dick and Kofman successfully capture unguarded moments and unexpected events--including quiet breakfasts, intimate conversations about his family, and revelatory interviews -which, ultimately, challenge our preconceptions of Derrida, while deepening our fascination with his mind and life.
Years from now, when Derrida has left us, it will be easy to present a Crossfire-like discussion on the merits and value of his thinking. If inclined, one could even dredge up shady details of his past. However, I would strongly argue that nobody will able to provide the kind of illumination that "Derrida" offers--an unfiltered and tantalizing look at one of the most creative and influential minds of today.
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